With the left-handed Julio Urias starting for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the New York Mets panicked and sat most of their left-handed hitters. That meant the Mets sat their best hitters.
What’s annoying about it was Urias has reverse splits. It’s all the more annoying because players like Dominic Smith are better against left-handed pitchers than their right-handed hitters.
Well, the Mets shot themselves in the foot. Brandon Drury, Kevin Pillar, and Albert Almora combined to go 0-for-6 with one walk and two strikeouts. In defense of Almora, that walk was a great at-bat, and it began the way towards Luis Rojas substituting players into the game to undo the inane front office lineup.
The irony of the game would be the Mets didn’t do anything until the left-handed bats could themselves in the game.
The left-handed batters did their job. Smith followed with an RBI single getting the Mets on the board.
Brandon Nimmo walked (of course), and Alonso was walked to load the bases. Jeff McNeil, another LHP not in the starting lineup, hit a two run single pulling the Mets within one. That run scored on a Will Smith passed ball.
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 14, 2021
The bats who couldn’t be trusted to be in the starting lineup, the Mets best bats, tied the score with a big two out rally.
Now, Aaron Loup has been the Mets best reliever all year, and he was fresh pitching just once over the last week. Meanwhile, Jeurys Familia has been heavily worked lately, and he has been starting to show the strain.
Well, despite Loup’s success against right-handed batters over the past two years, and the reverse splits of Smith, the Mets opted for Familia. The end result was a tired Familia giving up a go-ahead two run homer.
The Mets did get one back in the 10th, but it wasn’t enough. They lost 6-5 in a game they severely hampered themselves by being overly beholden to 1960 platoon theory.
It’s annoying the Mets handcuffed themselves like this unnecessarily and really purposefully ran converse to the analytics. They need to be better and do better than this.
If that’s the case, it’s extraordinarily bad decision making, and really, it’s a poor assessment of the talent on this Mets roster.
Honestly, that is an assessment which should’ve been discounted last year. In 2021, Smith hit .283/.391/.509 against left-handed pitchers.
That wasn’t a one year anomaly either. In 2019, Smith hit .303/.361/.515 against them. Overall, since 2019, Smith has hit .291/.380/.512.
That means not only is Smith one of the Mets best hitters, but he’s one of their best against left-handed pitching too.
Now, you can argue this is too much of a reaction to just one game. After all, Pillar is going to have to get into games. There are also other factors like his defense why you’d play him.
That said, this was the Mets first game. There was literally no other competing objective than put your best team on the field. That makes their first game a clear indication they believe Pillar is a better player against left-handed pitching than Smith.
That puts Smith in a platoon role where he sits against left-handed pitching. With Smith being one of the best hitters against left-handed pitching, they’re flat out wrong and making a mistake.
Smith is an everyday player. In fact, he’s clearly one of their best, and there’s no reason why he isn’t playing everyday.
Since cracking the Opening Day roster in 2014, Travis d’Arnaud has averaged 90 games per season behind the plate with last year being his high at 112 games. This is because d’Arnaud has not withstood to the day-to-day rigors of catching. Each and every year, he deals with a different injury to another part of his body, and as a result, the Mets have been left scrambling to figure out their Major League catching depth.
With the re-emergence of Kevin Plawecki as the Mets catcher of the future and the minor league signing of Jose Lobaton, the Mets are in a much better position from a catching standpoint than they have been in years past. While the Mets have better depth, the end game should be to keep d’Arnaud healthy for a full season.
And for that matter, with Plawecki finally showing the type of bat the Mets believed he had, the team needs to find a spot for him in the lineup.
To that end, a platoon between the catchers makes sense. Fortunately, both catchers seem inclined to go forward with the plan, and they both thrived under the situation last September with d’Arnaud hitting .297/.343/.656 in 20 games and Plawecki hitting .278/.400/.426 in 19 games.
So based upon their production in an admittedly small sample size, we know it could potentially work. What we don’t know is how it should work next season, especially when you consider both are right-handed hitters.
Perhaps, the Mets should approach this from a different perspective. Instead of focusing on what pitcher is on the mound for the opposing team, the Mets should focus on what pitcher is on the mound for their own team. That is, much like what we saw in 2016 with Noah Syndergaard and Rene Rivera, assign a catcher to a Mets starter based upon whom the pitcher works best.
When you look at the numbers, what is quite startling is just how much better the Mets starters numbers are with Plawecki behind the plate. There is a very important caveat to that. Plawecki did the bulk of the catching of these pitchers back in 2015 when they were all healthy and dealing. It was d’Arnaud who had to deal with each one of them having real injury issues which corresponded with diminished stuff and stats.
Basically, this will come down to comfort, and for starters, we know that likely means Plawecki will be catching Syndergaard because as we saw in 2016, he and d’Arnaud have had difficulty getting on the same page. As an aside, it was somewhat telling Syndergaard was caught by Plawecki and Tomas Nido in his two “starts” at the end of the season.
Coincidence or not, there may be something to Plawecki not catching Jacob deGrom at all last season. Given their track record together, which includes deGrom winning the 2014 Rookie of the Year Award and his amazing 2015 postseason, or their both having lower case ds in their last name, there is a rapport between deGrom and d’Arnaud which should continue.
Likely, you want to get each of the catchers 2-3 days in a row when they do play in order to afford them to maximizing rest and getting in rhythm. To that end, d’Arnaud should catch deGrom with the fourth and fifth starter, whoever they may be. This would set up this type of rotation:
- Jacob deGrom (d’Arnaud)
- Noah Syndergaard (Plawecki)
- Jason Vargas (Plawecki)
- Matt Harvey (d’Arnaud)
- Steven Matz (d’Arnaud)
Really, after deGrom and Syndergaard, you can order the pitchers anyway you want, and you can certainly resort them depending on which catcher and pitcher feel most comfortable as a tandem. In the end, what really matters is Mickey Callaway, Dave Eiland, and Glenn Sherlock communicate with the starters and catching tandem to find the best fit for each pitcher. If done properly, we may see the catchers last a full season, and more importantly, we could see the pitching staff as a whole revert to their 2015 level.
As I wrote in my last post, the Mets have a lot of versatility. After thinking about it, I noticed something:
2B: Kelly Johnson (L) & Wilmer Flores (R)
3B: Daniel Murphy (L) & Juan Uribe (R)
CF: Kirk Nieuwenhuis (L) & Juan Lagares (R)
This is the making of the perfect platoon situation. Last night the lefties played against the right handed Zach Lee. The aforementioned lefties were in the lineup. Once the game was out of control, the better defensive players were the Juans who came out onto the field (can’t wait to use that pun again).
I believe Collins will look to ride the hot hand more than he’ll look to platoon players. However, when the Mets have faced lefties this year, he has loaded the lineup with right handed batters. I think the platoon system is the prudent way to go that unless/until the Mets get reinforcements (trades, players returning from injury).
Remember, the only two times the Mets won the Workd Series, they effectively used a platoon system.
When looking at the numbers, it didn’t make much sense for the New York Mets to jump the gun and sign Eduardo Escobar early in the 2021-2022 offseason. However, the Mets did, and they wound up with a player who brought a lot of intanglibes to the franchise.
Right off the bat, he gave a famed and impassioned speech to the Mets minor leaugers about what it takes to make it. It was just the tip of the iceberg on the impact a person of Escobar’s caliber can have on a franchise.
Escobar was brought in for those intangibles. After a season where the Mets fell apart and were booing the fans, they needed to address the chemistry. They needed real clubhouse guys. Escobar was every bit that and more. We got that sense of hearing Francisco Lindor talking about him in the moments after Escobar was traded:
Francisco Lindor was interviewed minutes after Eduardo Escobar was traded to the Angels.
“He's one of the best teammates I've ever had. We're going to miss him a lot."
— Metsmerized Online (@Metsmerized) June 24, 2023
Lindor hit in on the head when he said Escobar was one of the best teammates he ever had. He was also one of those players fans wanted to see succeed. That was no more evident than when Escobar told the fans he was going to give them reason to root for him.
We had that reason when Escobar had a great end to the 2022 season. We also had that reason throughout his tenure with how he comported himself and was always a team first player.
In 2022, when he struggled, Escobar lost his starting job to Luis Guillorme. Actually, it was a platoon, but when you’re the right-handed bat in the platoon, you lost your job. Escobar responded by being a great teammate and having a phenomenal end to the 2022 season to reclaim his job and doing all he could to prevent a collapse.
During that 2022 season, Brett Baty was called up. If not for Baty’s thumb injury, we have no idea if Escobar would ever get the opportunity to start again. Despite knowing that, he worked with Baty and Mark Vientos during spring training to help them improve as ballplayers. He actively helped prepare two prospect who were likely to take his job during the 2023 season.
With Escobar’s early season struggles, that happened much sooner than later. Escobar responded to that by being a great teammate and helping Baty anyway he could. He also responded by rebounding and starting to put together a much better season.
When you are having a lost season like the Mets are having, you are eventually going to have to sell. When the Los Angeles Angels offer the package of Coleman Crow and Landon Marceaux, you pretty much have to pull the trigger on that because you’re not really going to do much better for a utility player.
That said, as you look to get younger and go through difficult stretches, Escobar is exactly who you want on your team. You want him as a mentor and to be a positive force in the clubhouse. Trading him was necessary, but you don’t do it enthusiastically.
Escobar was very good for the Mets since they signed him. He had big moments, but the biggest moments of all was when he was a great teammate and true leader in the Mets clubhouse. He is going to be sorely missed.
Since Vientos was recalled, he has started in just nine out of a possible 18 games. He’s only played in the field three times. He came to the Mets red hot at the plate improving defensively (he’s still a bad fielder), and now, he’s not allowed to hit or field.
In September, you understand. Like last season, it’s about exposure and just getting your best guys on the roster to try to take your team over the top. However, it’s June.
Young players aren’t helped by sitting. They need reps to improve, or at the very least, show what they need to work on to ge able to play at the Major League level. Again, Vientos isn’t playing.
This is exacerbated by the fact the Mets are playing two people over Vientos who simply cannot be in the everyday lineup right now.
Daniel Vogelbach has become a DH who can’t hit. He’s been horrid for over a month now. On the season, he is down to a 93 wRC+. To put that in perspective, on May 14, he had a 132 wRC+.
Vogelbach is only making $1.5 million. There is team control though next season, but what’s the point when the 30 year old platoon DH can’t hit anymore.
Showalter won’t stop playing him. The only way to stop it is to DFA Vogelbach.
Now, Brett Baty is a more difficult call. He is a well regarded young player who did surpass Vientos as the third baseman of the future. That said, there are extremely troubling trends.
Baty’s ground ball rate is up to 49.5%. He’s hit onto more double plays (4) than he’s hit homers (3). He can’t hit a breaking ball at the moment (39.3 WHIFF%).
Teams are now exploiting that with Baty striking out in 41.2% of his plate appearances since May 25. Overall, Baty is down to a 90 wRC+, and there aren’t any signs that number will improve anytime soon.
It’s getting increasingly difficult to argue Baty should be in the majors instead of Triple-A. In fact, Baty belongs in Syracuse now. He’s regressing, and he’s at the point where he needs too much work.
There is no reason to play Baty over Vientos now. Vientos isn’t anywhere near the defender, but he could be working with Joey Cora to improve and become more playable.
Mostly, the Mets can give him a chance. Maybe he succeeds. Maybe he fails. Whatever the case, he has upside and promise. At the very least, he couldn’t possibly be worse than Baty or Vogelbach have been.
With Omar Narváez set to come off the IL, the New York Mets were going to have to make a move., While it seemed like sending Mark Vientos down was the obvious move since he’s not playing, the Mets instead opted to designate Tomás Nido for assignment.
On the surface, it makes sense. After all, Francisco Álvarez has played so well the Mets were not going to send him back down to Triple-A Syracuse. As such, Narváez is really just taking over Nido’s spot on the roster. However, that is such a grossly over simplistic view it needs to be disregarded outright.
With the catching situation, the first caveat is Álvarez has not caught more than 81 games in a season. That presents a challenge for the Mets to get him through a full season healthy and without mental or physical fatigue. As a result, the team will have to look to buy Álvarez time here or there.
Honestly, that is something the Mets did with Álvarez in Syracuse by having him DH on occasion. It’s at least one of the reasons why the Mets assigned three catchers to Triple-A Syracuse to start the season.
However, for that to work, Buck Showalter has to show a willingness to DH one of his catchers. You can hear him saying you can’t take the risk of a catcher getting injured and having your team lose the DH for the game. More to the point, Showalter very infrequently did it with Matt Wieters. Going through each of his stops, it is something he would do far less than 20 times a season.
Put another way, the odds are Álvarez isn’t going to DH. In fact, so far this season, we have not seen Álvarez DH in any games.
Instead, we are likely going to see Daniel Vogelbach be the primary DH for the Mets. Anytime there is a right-handed pitcher, we should expect to see Vogelbach. That is the case even with Vogelbach hitting Vogelbach is hitting .158/.284/.246 since May 3. On the season, Vogelbach has a 99 wRC+. In essence, he’s a below average hitter at a position where the only job is to hit.
Now, those Vogelbach at-bats could have gone to Álvarez on the days he’s not catching. Again, Álvarez will need time off here and there. Also, we should not expect Showalter to just allow Álvarez to get the vast majority of starts over Narváez.
Remember, this is the same Showalter who continues to bat Álvarez ninth and is still somewhat of the belief Álvarez is a platoon bat. That is to say the left-handed hitting Narváez is going to get his starts and his plate appearances. Showalter’s default is to appease the veterans. That should lead us to see more Narváez than we originally contemplated.
Again, this could have been a good thing because it would permit Álvarez to DH. However, that role isn’t open with Vogelbach still on the team. The odds of Showalter doing it without Nido as a third catcher are diminished. Because of the totality of the circumstances, we see the Mets opted to DH Vogelbach over creating more opportunities to have Álvarez in the lineup.
Entering the 2023 season, the consensus was Brett Baty was the New York Mets best third base option. When the season began, Baty was unstoppable with Triple-A Syracuse, and Eduardo Escobar could not have struggled more. As a result, very early on in the season, Baty was called up to take over the third base job.
For a time, Baty seemed to claim that job as his for the present and future. On May 5, he was hitting .319/.385/.511. Defensively, he was a 2 OAA. He was making everyone look good. His play was so good Buck Showalter even began playing him against left-handed pitchers and batting him fifth in the lineup.
Well, since that point, things have not gone well for Baty. Over his ensuing 24 games, Baty is hitting .173/.253/.284. He’s near an automatic out, and he’s down to a 90 wRC+.
There are a number of reasons for that. The ground ball rate is again an issue for Baty with a 1.84 GB/FB. He’s not barreling up the baseball, and while the strike out rate isn’t bad, he swings and misses a lot. That includes a 39% whiff rate against breaking balls.
Baty’s fielding has also slipped a bit with his OAA dropping from two to one. He’s been struggling on balls to his left. That’s not to say he’s been bad, but rather, his glove is not at the level to justify keeping an anemic bat in the lineup. Again, he has slipped from where he was a month ago.
While Baty is struggling, Escobar has come alive. Since May 1, Escobar is hitting .394/.444/.606. That’s a whopping 1.051 OPS. A large part of that is he has predominantly played against left-handed pitching.
Defensively, Escobar has been adept playing to a 0 OAA at second and third. Certainly, he has earned more playing time and more chances to prove himself.
In addition to Escobar, the Mets have a Mark Vientos problem. Since he has been called up, he has only started in nine out of a possible 15 games. By and large, Showalter is treating him as a platoon option for Daniel Vogelbach.
With Baty at third, and Showalter’s predilection towards playing veterans like Vogelbach, there’s not enough at-bats to give Vientos. That’s not to say Vientos shouldn’t be in the everyday lineup. Rather, the reality is the manager won’t do it.
Now., if Baty is sent to Triple-A, there is suddenly more at-bats available for Vientos. We can see him a little more comfortable, and we can get a better look at what Vientos can do with some regular playing time. Keep in mind, while Vientos struggles defensively, the Mets can and should call up Luis Guillorme as a defensive replacement.
Freeing up this playing time for Vientos is a consequence of who is managing. That in and of iteslf is not the reason to demote Baty. The reason behind that is Baty has been struggling for a while now, and we are starting to see some troubling trends like a dip in his defense and an increase in his ground ball rate.
It appears Baty needs to go back to Triple-A to work things out. When he does, the Mets should look to call him right back up because when he is going well, he is the Mets best option at third.
The New York Mets did what they did all season. They followed inexplicably dropping consecutive series to the Chicago Cubs and Colorado Rockies by sweeping the Philadelphia Phillies at home. At this point, the unexpected has become the expected.
Putting the consistent inconsistency aside, we are starting to see some very positive signs emerge. More than anything, we should be focusing on that rather than the day-to-day results. After all, if certain things are working well for the Mets, the wins are going to come.
First and foremost, the rotation is starting to look like what we hoped it would be. Over his last four starts, Max Scherzer is 4-0 with a 1.08 ERA while striking out 28 and walking just four over 25 innings.
Kodai Senga has become unhittable at home. In his five Citi Field starts, he is 3-1 with a 1.20 ERA, 0.933 WHIP, 4.2 BB/9, and an incredible 11.4 K/9. As we saw with Noah Syndergaard‘s rookie year, the home/road splits will eventually translate to Senga being able to be a great pitcher on the road. It just takes a little time.
With the exception of his Coors Field start and the start against the Tampa Bay Rays, Justin Verlander has largely been good. We also see José Quintana is on a path to get back on the mound. Overall, that’s four strong starters that becomes five with Carlos Carrasco pitching 6+ innings while allowing just one earned in each of his last two starts.
Offensively, Pete Alonso is chasing 60 and looks primed to be the first non-steroid National League player to hit that mark. Francisco Álvarez has been great at the plate and may be better defensively. Brandon Nimmo is having an All-Star caliber season (again).
Francisco Lindor is playing Gold Glove defense and has been hitting for power. We also have to remember with his struggles he’s a second half hitter. Jeff McNeil has struggled, but he too is at a point in the season where he usually takes off.
Where things are really promising is the older core from last season finding their games again. Since May 9, Starling Marte is hitting .288/.342/.356 and has stolen 16 bases this season. Since May 14, Mark Canha is hitting 333/.442/.556. Eduardo Escobar has thrived in a part-time role hitting .400/.442/.700 since April 20.
That’s not to say there hasn’t been any issues. Brett Baty is struggling at the plate hitting .200/.286/.400 since May 14, but he continues to play good defense with a 1 OAA. Since May 1, Daniel Vogelbach is hitting .170/.310/.254. With both to those players struggling, it is strange to see how infrequently Mark Vientos plays.
The bullpen doesn’t go that deep, but David Robertson has been a great anchor. You can rely on Drew Smith to be a bridge. However, Brooks Raley and Adam Ottavino are too important to be as shaky as they are.
That brings us to the Mets biggest issue – Buck Showalter. He’s managing like it’s 1988, and he does bizarre things like ignoring the numbers, batting Álvarez ninth, and shoe-horning Vogelbach into the lineup. He’s just never playing Vientos at this point treating him as a strict platoon player.
However, despite Buck (yes, despite him), the Mets are 30-27 just 3.5 games back of the Atlanta Braves. The Braves are 9-13 over their last 22 games. It’s allowed the Mets to get back into the NL East race.
The Mets are also currently the second Wild Card. They’re trailing the Arizona Diamondbacks/Los Angeles Dodgers by four games, but they have a one game lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates and Miami Marlins, who are currently tied for the last Wild Card spot.
Of course, the standings right now don’t mean anything. We can just pinpoint the Mets last two seasons to illustrate that point. Rather, it just shows the Mets are in a great position to make a run. With the starting pitching emerging, their top hitters slugging, and the rest of the roster ready to break out, the Mets are poised to have a great summer, and hopefully, an even better October.
There is just so much to talk about with the New York Mets at the moment. On the good, we have Pete Alonso on pace for 60 home runs, and Francisco Álvarez increasingly looks like a lock for the National League Rookie of the Year.
Buck Showalter can’t seem to help himself. He threw Mark Vientos into a platoon for no good reason. Daniel Vogelbach looks done, and Tommy Pham may just be pushing past Vogelbach as the player to keep.
While the focus is everywhere and anywhere, we all seem to overlook just how good of a season Brandon Nimmo is having. Nimmo was out there in the last game to remind us how good and important he is:
Another phenomenal play from Brandon Nimmo in CF. pic.twitter.com/Nx83lPEDtB
— Steve Gelbs (@SteveGelbs) May 31, 2023
Nimmo made yet another great defensive play in center. That play was important too because his robbing Nick Castellanos of a home run kept the game tied at zero in what would eventually be a 2-0 Mets win. Considering it was a deep dive to left for Castellanos, we probably also avoided something horrible happening.
Defensively, Nimmo has been very good for a few seasons now. This year, Nimmo has a 2 OAA which ranks sixth in the National League. Since the start of last season, Nimmo has a 6 OAA which rates him as the sixth best in the National League.
Offensively, Nimmo has a 134 wRC+. That rates as the 33rd best in all of baseball. Among center fielders, Nimmo behind just Aaron Judge and Mike Trout. Of course, Nimmo rates ahead of both of them defensively. He’s also much closer to them as an overall player as you may think.
Nimmo’s 2.0 fWAR trails Judge’s 2.9, but it is ahead of Trout’s 1.9. Like with wRC+, they are the top three center fielders in the game. Overall, Nimmo’s 2.0 fWAR is tied for 14th overall. That rates him as the fourth best NL outfielder. That should mean he’s an All-Star, but every year, he just seems to get overlooked.
In terms of bWAR, Nimmo’s 1.7 is second on the New York Mets only to Alonso. It rates him as 34th overall and 15th among outfielders. He’s eighth among center fielders and third among NL center fielders.
Overall, Nimmo is having another great year, and he should be an All-Star for the first time in his career. Of course, he may not be as people tend to overlook all the great things he does. After all, with everything going on with the Mets, we tend to have our focus in other directions even if we need to take time to acknowledge Nimmo.